There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.”
-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, 1964
Massachusetts Bail Fund News
What a difference a month makes. Since our first newsletter in October, the landscape of social justice and criminal justice reform has shifted considerably. We have been working harder than ever to release as many people as possible from unjust incarceration. We are committed to furthering the cause of bail reform and to engaging with our community on the issues that create a system which holds a person in jail for as little astwenty five dollars.
This month, we will hold our first Bail Fund Community Conversation, in which our volunteers will discuss the intersection of white supremacy and the criminal justice system. Over the next year, we plan to hold more Community Conversations on different topics, and to include our supporters as well as our volunteers.
In this issue, we've included a report on our operations as well as information about our upcoming Annual Fundraiser on December 11th. But first, on this Giving Tuesday, we remember Marguerite Rosenthal, an integral part of our operation who gave us more than we can say.
A TRIBUTE TO MARGUERITE ROSENTHAL
from Director of Operations
In the summer of 2016, the Bail Fund lost a true inspiration with the passing of Marguerite Rosenthal, longtime steering committee member. In the year before she died, I was lucky enough to get to talk to Marguerite every week. In addition to her work as a member of the steering committee, she was also on the decision committee: a three-person panel that examined each client request and decided whether we could help or if we had to say no. She and I discussed each person in depth. Her questions and concerns always came from a place of caring, sympathy, realism, love, and often anger at a system we both knew to be unjust.
My favorite conversations were those in which she would at first hesitate with her approval. In the end, and with a righteous anger, Marguerite would say, "Post her bail, it's $200, nobody should be in jail for that little, shame on whoever put her there." And she was never wrong. She was always thoughtful - each client got her full attention, no matter how simple. She asked questions of me about the legal side of things, and I learned much from her about the social justice and social service side of things. She often knew off the top of her head that a specific address was a homeless shelter. She would tell me about the latest article in the local or international paper about drug addiction, a common issue for our clients.
I learned, over the course of the last year, what a life committed to social justice looks like. She never tired, and if she got discouraged, I couldn't tell. Last November the Bail Fund had our yearly fundraiser. Marguerite had broken her toe and was on crutches, but she hobbled into the event with soda and water in a rolling suitcase.
There are hundreds of men and women in Massachusetts whose lives were changed because Marguerite learned their stories. With humility and an understanding of the gravity of what incarceration does to a community, she voted to free them, and we did.
She was an inspiration to me and to everyone involved in the Bail Fund. Without her there is a hole in our organization not easily filled.
This month our committed volunteers posted bail at the following jails:
Nashua Street Jail
Billerica House of Correction
Worcester House of Correction
Plymouth County Correctional Facility
Middleton House of Correction
Chicopee Correctional Center
NOVEMBER AT A GLANCE
412 People Bailed
175 Cases Closed
$190,661 in Bail
5 Lost Bails
ANNUAL MBF FUNDRAISER: DECEMBER 11, 2016
At our fundraiser, you will learn about the following:
The direct impact your donations have on people's lives, from volunteers and clients.
Massachusetts impact litigation to change the way bail works.
Who we've helped, how many people we've helped, and our plans for the coming year.
Lunch will be provided.
We will have a raffle of some great items, including a signed Red Sox baseball, a signed copy of Amy Poehler's book "Yes Please," gift cards from Panera and Starbucks, original artwork, spa gift baskets, and more!
The Massachusetts Bail Fund is dedicated to the goal of ending money bail. We do this through the primary avenue available to us: posting bail for those too poor to afford it. Our volunteers go to jails throughout the Commonwealth and pay up to $500 in bail in order to free someone who would otherwise sit in jail until their case concluded.
The fund posts as many cash bails as permitted by our budget, a budget determined by how many donations we receive from the community. We will continue to fight each day to free as many members of our community as possible from an unjust system of pretrial detention. In so doing, we hope not only to provide freedom to the most vulnerable members of our community, but also to show how deeply unfair and detrimental this system continues to be. Join us.